Bangladesh reached into the final of the third SAFF Under-16 Football Championship with a narrow 1-0 win over Afghanistan in the first semi-final at the jam-packed Sylhet District Stadium on Sunday.
The hosts will now tussle for the ultimate glory against the reigning champions India in the final on Tuesday after they edged out Nepal also by a solitary goal in the day’s other semi-final.
Rahim Ali scored the winner for the Indians in the 22nd minute.
Saaduzzaman, the in-form midfielder, scored the all important goal to propel the hosts to their maiden final of the age-level tournament.
In the last edition in Nepal in 2013, Bangladesh finished third after defeating the same opponent with the identical scoreline while they finished fourth in the 2011 edition, also held in the Himalayan state.
The hosts started the game with an attacking mode but the only thing they lacked was to convert those attacks in goals.
Saad wasted a bright chance in the 15th minute when he failed to connect the ball properly after a neat cross from Sarwar Zaman Nipu from the left-flank.
Afghans could have taken the lead in the 38th minute against the run of play when they were awarded a penalty after Bangladesh defender Jahangir Alam Sajeeb brought down Afghan forward Abdul Naser Amini inside the box.
But Afghan skipper Omid Haidar failed to convert from the spot as he blasted the ball over the crossbar.
Saad, however, rectified his mistake and struck the priceless goal in the 56th minute.
Full-back Khalil Bhuiyan’s corner found Shawon inside the box who headed down it to Saad, and the midfielder rounded off before slotting the ball home past the Afghan keeper.
Bangladesh could have doubled the lead just two minute before the stipulated time when substitute striker Rony saw his header following a Shawon’s free-kick hit the woodwork.
Bangladesh keeper Faisal Ahmed rescued his side by denying Afghan forward Ali Baset from goal with a stunning save in the injury time.
Bangladesh coach Syed Golam Jilani was proud of his players and said they had a little time to recover after playing their last group match against India on Friday.
‘They looked tired because they had to play two matches within three days,’ Jilani said after the match.
‘But they played really well to register the deserving win.’
Bangladesh skipper Shawon said they had to fight with a physically stronger Afghanistan.
‘They were physically stronger than us but technically we were better. So that most of the time we controlled the match,’ said the left-back.
-With New Age input